My Top Ten Favorite Beginnings/Endings In Books

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish) focuses on favorite book beginnings and endings, and I’m focusing specifically on my favorite beginning and ending lines. Let me warn you though, I think the lines for a couple of the endings are kind of spoilery if you haven’t read the book. This week’s list is in no particular order:

1. Beginning: The Book Thief

beg-bookthiefA startling opening line from our narrator from The Book Thief, Death.

2. Ending: Crime and Punishment

end-c&p2This was such a hard, and often times depressing, book to read, so I was quite thrilled when it had a very hopeful ending where, while Raskolinkov is paying for his crime, the woman he loves has promised to wait for him and he is a better man.

3. Beginning: The Beekeeper’s Apprentice

beg-beekeeperNearly steps on Sherlock Holmes while reading? Definitely an intriguing start!

4. Ending: The Hunger Games

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If I could have, I would have shared that entire thought process Katniss goes through as Peeta hands her flowers and makes it clear he wants them to be an item in real life. “I want to tell him he’s not being fair. That we were strangers. That I did what it took to stay alive, to keep us both alive in that arena…” Man this ending broke my heart in so many ways as I was so rooting for Peeta, and it made me want to pick up Catching Fire right away!

5. Beginning: The Scorpio Races

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This is next on my TBR, but I read the first little bit as a preview before buying the book, and this opening line definitely caught my attention.

6. Ending: Catching Fire

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This was a bit shocking… and again, made me ready to start Mockingjay! (So glad I didn’t read these books until all three were out…)

7. Beginning: The Giver

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I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I first started The Giver, and for some reason this beginning stood out to me. Why was Jonas afraid now? Why had the aircraft from the year before frightened him so much? I was instantly interested in Jonas’ world and his story.

8. Ending: Mockingjay

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I’m not counting the epilogue, which while I don’t actively dislike it, I just felt like was really out of place. But the last page of Mockingjay (before the epilogue) literally made everything in the the entire series worth it for me. After everything, Katniss finally found some security.

9. Beginning: Rebecca

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Instantly intriguing. What is Manderley?

10. Ending: The Book Thief

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The Book Thief begins strong and ends strong, while remaining intriguing throughout most of the book. Basically, you need to read it.

What are your favorite beginning and ending lines from a book? 

Review: Fringe, Season One

Holy crap.

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Part of me wishes I had discovered this show sooner. The other part of me is glad I’m watching it now, after having seen and enjoyed more science fiction and after all the seasons are out on DVD. But regardless, my co-worker loaned me the first season, and after it sat around our house for a while, my husband and I finally started watching it. And we quickly became hooked. The first season has some flaws, which I will get to, but it was incredibly strong overall and I have thoroughly enjoyed the creative story and the characters.

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Fringe has a very fascinating story line, with most episodes based on a certain element of the “fringe” sciences, which include the likes of teleportation, pyrokinesis, hypnosis, etc. The show centers on FBI agent Olivia Dunham (played by Anna Torv), who is assigned to work with the fringe science division as more and more instances involving the fringe sciences occur in Boston, New York, and the surrounding areas. These events are a part of something referred to as “the pattern,” and the goal of the division to figure out what exactly the pattern is and who is behind it, that they might be stopped. To help her, Olivia recruits fringe scientist and genius Dr. Walter Bishop (played by John Noble), but before she can recruit him out of the mental institution where he has lived for the past 17 years, she has to first recruit his son Peter Bishop (played by Joshua Jackson). She finds Peter in Iraq, who reluctantly agrees to sign Walter out of the mental institution only after Olivia tells him she knows what the FBI has on him, and she will do something about it if he won’t help. Over time, the three truly become like a wacky, dysfunctional family that you can’t help but love.

I really like Peter especially. It’s probably because of my love for The Mighty Duck movies, but he always has an intelligent quip or sarcastic remark at hand. He’s got a little bit of a shady past, but he grows throughout the season and clearly comes to care more about his dad and the others in his life. I love especially how he is always watching out for Olivia (and I hope this will turn into something more later in the show), who probably doesn’t think she needs the help; but no matter how strong a person is, they cannot stand on their own. In a way, I think Peter and Olivia need other (at least platonically) because they both have been so independent.

Walter grows leaps and bounds in the first season. He goes from being in a mental institution, to learning how to cope with the real world, to growing more happy, but at the end of the season he comes to grips with what he did in the past and how it is affecting what is happening now, and trying to cope with that. He too cares about Olivia, and of course for Peter, even if Peter doesn’t feel that way from Walter’s long absence in his life. He’s also hilarious and is always craving some food he hasn’t had in 17+ years.Olivia is extremely serious about her job and works very hard at it, not leaving room for much else in her life. Once she did open up her heart, and it ends up burning her, and it affects her throughout the season. Yet she does seem to trust Peter and Walter, as well as fellow FBI agent Charlie. We also get to see some interaction between Olivia and her sister and niece, which shows a more familial side of her. She is exactly the kind of female character I enjoy.

All the minor characters are complex and interesting too, with the exception of one who is just so annoying it’s not even funny, but let’s just say they take care of it on the show. Several of the major and minor characters seem to operating in various shades of gray, and it will take time to see their true colors. One character that I really like but feels a little flatter than some of the others is Astrid, a junior FBI agent who’s always in the lab with Walter. Thankfully, her character is on the show for all five seasons, so I imagine she will continue to grow.

Oh yes, and there’s a cow named Gene. She’s awesome. 🙂

I don’t want to say too much more about the overall story line, because it’s so much more fun to discover it on your own. Let’s just say that just when you think the show is getting a little formulaic (still very interesting, but formulaic nonetheless), they throw you some curve balls and plot twists, and they really shake things up at the end (though sadly I kind of knew some of it was coming, partly due to listening to speculations from a podcast called The Fringe Podcast and partly due to the show being out long enough and having apparently picked up on at least a couple of spoilers accidentally). Season One is clearly just the beginning of a story that continues for four more seasons.

I do have one really big beef with season one in how one particular story arc and character arc was “resolved” and handled. I don’t want to get specific, but it starts in the pilot episode and the “resolve” happens about halfway through the first season, and it feels extremely inconsistent. I am hoping it’s not the actual end and that it will come up again, because it really did not feel right at all. With this in mind, as well as with the hope that the subsequent seasons will just get better and better, I am going to rate season one of Fringe four out of five stars.

4stars2This is an extremely strong first season for a show, and I would highly recommend it. I will warn it can be a little gory sometimes, but just look away for a little while and you’ll be fine. It’s worth it to watch this show play out. It’s intelligent, funny, and dramatic all at once.

Have you seen Fringe? What are your thoughts on it? (No spoilers please, as I have only seen season 1 and the first two episodes of season 2 thus far!)

A Book’s First Impression

When you first crack open a book, be it one you anticipated before getting a hold of it, or whether you are browsing a bookstore and curious about the tone of the book, the first line of the book is your first impression of the writing in the book. I was thinking about this as I was thinking about next week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic (Best Book Beginnings/Endings) and when I read this article about Stephen King and his opening sentences. I know the first line isn’t everything, but it helps set the stage for the rest of the book. One of the examples given in the article I found really interesting…

They threw me off the hay truck about noon.

This is from James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice, which I have never read, but I find that opening line fascinating. Sounds like this character is a drifter of sorts, since he’s hitching a ride on a hay truck. But what led him there? Why did he get kicked off? Already I have questions! And that’s a good thing! Here is another beginning that certainly catches your attention with the first several lines:

First the colors. Then the humans. That’s usually how I see things. Or at least, how I try.

*** HERE IS A SMALL FACT***

You are going to die.

This is the beginning of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. You don’t know yet that the narrator is Death, but he has certainly caught your attention, you know he’s not human, and the stage is set for the tone and style that will carry on throughout the novel.  And then one more I wanted to share, from The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, which I have not read yet but is on the top of my TBR pile:

It is the first day of November and so, today, someone will die.

This too begs a question: why will someone die because it’s November 1? What happens on November 1? And of course, we also  have the time of year, which is nice. I think that generally, it’s important to establish a character and a setting within the first paragraph.

writing-leopardAs someone who does write, I do find beginnings hard sometimes, or at least a good, powerful beginning. I feel like I have improved since I’ve learned to eliminate all fluff in writing and get right to the action, the good stuff. If you ever read anything I write, chances are you won’t be waiting for something to happen in the character’s life; it will be happening quite quickly. It might not be the most earth-shattering thing ever, but it’s something important to the character. I have found that I have a low tolerance in both reading slow beginnings and writing them.

If I get bored writing a sentence, a paragraph, or a scene, I know it must be boring for the reader too. I believe that everything written should be something that either advances the plot/story forward, or that advances the character’s personal growth/character arc. That’s why it’s important to not just begin strong, but to have a strong middle and end as well. And it’s hard! But it’s important. And I think the first impression of a book says a lot to a reader who is just getting started on the adventure the writer has crafted.

What do you think? Does a book’s beginning make a difference to you? What kind of opening line grabs your attention? 

Emma: An Awesome Adaptation Featuring A Love Triangle

Awesome Adaptations is hosted by Picture Me Reading, and is a focus on book-to-movie adaptations that we think are awesome!

How appropriate that the same month that A Novel Idea is hosting their Love Triangles 101 event (which I participated in), that this topic would come up! Instead of focusing on a modern-day story, however, I thought I ought to pay homage to The Original Queen of Love Triangles (this is not official, but I thought it sounded good) Jane Austen, and of her most convoluted triangley stories, Emma.

bool-movie-emmaI have mentioned many times before how much I really love the 2009 BBC mini-series of Emma (it’s over three hours long and filled with so much goodness!). Though I have not read the book yet, every actor/actress in this adaptation just seem to hit their character so spot-on. They feel like real people and I really come to care for several of them (the ones you’re supposed to care for… Mr. Elton… not so much).

Just so you can see just how much love triangleness is going on Emma, I stole a chart from Diana Peterfreund’s website (apparently she thinks about Jane Austen’s stories even more than I do) and doctored it up with pictures:

emmadiagram-editI have to imagine if you have never seen the movie or read the book, this must be seriously hard to follow. But basically, everyone gets crushed on at some point and everyone crushes on someone at one point; sometimes it’s clear, sometimes it’s confusing, sometimes it’s a rumor, and sometimes they change their mind! It honestly feels like real life though (sometimes uncomfortably so), but it is so much more fun to watch it happen to these people in old timey England than it is for it to happen to you.

If you haven’t checked out this version of Emma and enjoyed Jane Austen’s stories, I would HIGHLY recommend it! The fact that it was able to push the 2005 Pride and Prejudice movie from the top spot of my favorite Jane Austen movie adaptations is a seriously huge deal and just shows how awesome it is. (Side note: I loved the 2005 P&P so much I used one of the tracks from the movie as the song I walked down the aisle to in my wedding, so yeah, I seriously love it.)

What do you think is an awesome adaptation that features love triangles? (I’ll give you a hint, the answer isn’t Twilight.) 

Top 10 Words/Topics That Will Make Me NOT Pick up a Book

This week’s Top 10 Tuesday topic (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish) is the top 10 words/topics that will make me not pick up a book. Click here for my top 10/words topics that will make me pick up a book. (This week’s list in no particular order.)

1. Paranormal Romance, 2. Vampires, 3. Werewovles, 4. Zombies, & 5. Horror

The first five are all pretty much related, so I thought I would explain it all at once. They just don’t appeal to me. You’re not going to find me in this section of Barnes and Noble. Zombies, werewolves, vampires… I found them kind of gross. And they’re definitely not appealing in any sort of romantic way. I also really don’t like anything scary, so that also doesn’t help with my feelings of the paranormal creatures. So if any of the above are involved, I keep walking by.

6. Gardening

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I mean this in a non-fiction sense, not that The Secret Garden turns me off. I have a black thumb, I don’t find working with plants enjoyable, so needless to say, you’ll never find me with a book about gardening.

7. Westerns

I’m not saying it would be absolutely outside the realm of possibility for me to read a Western, but it does seem pretty unlikely. I’ve seen a few Western movies, and they didn’t do a whole lot for me.

8. Philosophy

philosophy-books

Just the thought of reading philosophy makes my head hurt. Pass…

9. New Adult

I like the idea of reading books about college students/people in their early twenties, but I don’t like the idea of this New Adult movement that seems to just focus on sex and on being edgy in general. It’s something that I personally just don’t want to read about. Plus, covers with couples kissing almost always get a pass from me for whatever reason. I like romantic sub-plots, but I don’t typically read books where romance is the main focus.

10. Poetry

poetry-books

I’m not saying I would never pick up a book of poetry, but I am not going to wander into the poetry section of a bookstore and browse just for fun. I like poems sometimes, especially more unique and funny ones, but I’m not a huge fan of the genre in general, not for any fault of its own, it’s just not my taste.

What words/topics deter you from a book? 

Review: The Testing

Oh, The Testing. You had so much potential.

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synopsisStolen from Goodreads:

The Seven Stages War left much of the planet a charred wasteland. The future belongs to the next generation’s chosen few who must rebuild it. But to enter this elite group, candidates must first pass The Testing—their one chance at a college education and a rewarding career. 

Cia Vale is honored to be chosen as a Testing candidate; eager to prove her worthiness as a University student and future leader of the United Commonwealth. But on the eve of her departure, her father’s advice hints at a darker side to her upcoming studies–trust no one. 

But surely she can trust Tomas, her handsome childhood friend who offers an alliance? Tomas, who seems to care more about her with the passing of every grueling (and deadly) day of the Testing. To survive, Cia must choose: love without truth or life without trust.

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Early in the book, I felt fairly engaged in the story. Cia was nervous about her graduation day and was expressing the emotions and events of the day. I think, in hindsight, I might have noticed some of the strangely simplistic writing style, but was not too bothered by it. I think writing in such a way can sometimes help convey a certain tone.

But seriously, you can’t carry an entire young adult book in such a fashion. And what’s especially bad is when the writing style makes one feel so far removed of the story that is being told in first person and present tense. Here’s an example from chapter 6:

We sing favorite songs. Tomas and I perform a duet that we learned in school. The words speak of the hope of springtime and the world being born anew. Our two voices entwine and echo in the hall. The officials cleaning up after the meal stop and listen to us. When we go back to our rooms we all walk lighter. The lightness stays with me even as Ryme expresses relief that tomorrow’s exam will send people packing. And when I sleep with my bag tucked tight to my chest I spend the night free of dreams.

A summary of events like this is fine from time to time. But it keeps happening. From chapter 7:

Tomas is more than willing to leave his bench and take a look. Zandri and Malachi laugh at us as we poke around the pump, but after a while they fall into quiet conversation, leaving Tomas and me to our own devices.

Tomas thinks the problem might be the impeller. I guess the motor. We decide to remove the pump to find out who’s right. Tomas uses my knife to unscrew the pump from its base, and we head to the shore. A few minutes laterm we have the cover off and I give a shout of victory. The impeller is perfect. The motor has a loose connection. I tinker with it for a while and think I have the problem licked. Tomas puts the cover back on and installs the pump back in the pond. Minutes later, water shoots into the air, soaking us both.

Problem solved.

We lie on the grass, letting the sun dry on our clothes, and I try to hang on the happiness I feel whenever I make something work.

Simple sentence structure. Summary of events. The lack of dialogue. It feels awfully distant. And boring. Perhaps it is all a matter of style. It just strikes me as odd, however, that the beginning of the story feels so distant, when towards the end, it finally starts to feel a little closer to the action and I start to actually feel some of Cia’s emotions.

Some.

I think Nikki of There Were Books Involved explained the tone for most of the book very well in her DNF Q&A of the book: “For some reason I found myself totally distanced from the story and feeling like there was very little emotion to it; Cia may have said she was feeling nervous/scared/relieved, but I never felt those emotions reflected in her actions or narration. And despite the book being in the present tense, I didn’t feel like Cia was telling us about these events and her feelings as she experienced them – her clinical tone felt oddly distanced from the present tense narrative. It ended up coming across as emotionless, to me. I also found Cia’s tendency to describe conversations (rather than actually include dialog) a little odd.”

I kept reading, however, because I bought the book, and also because I really wanted to believe that it got better. Unfortunately, it got worse before it got better, but it did get better eventually.

One of the tests involves the testers being dumped off 700 miles from Tosu City (the Capitol city, where they are doing the testing) and they have to find their way back. They are not told to kill other contestants, but they have the option of taking weapons and they have the option to kill if they wish. This felt ripped off from The Hunger Games as it really didn’t make sense in the context of the book. Unlike The Hunger Games, however, most of this portion of the book was pretty boring.

Towards the end of this test I was finally interested in what would happen. After the testing is over it’s a little hit or miss, but the ending did actually left me thinking about maybe reading the next book, after being convinced for the vast majority of it that I would not be doing so.

As far as characters go, I liked Cia well enough. She’s no Katniss, but I didn’t find her unlikable. I didn’t love her love interest Tomas, however. He seemed bland on the surface, and then I hate that as she is telling herself she is not sure she can trust him, she’s still like, “Oh well, I’ll kiss him!” Meh.

I give the vast majority of the book a 2, but towards the end it creeps up to more of a 3. So ultimately, it seems fair to settle at 2.5 stars.

2.5starsHave you read The Testing? What were your thoughts? Or what book did you think showed potential but just didn’t completely work for you? 

Thanks to Alice in Readerland‘s recent review with sleepy kitty GIFs, I was inspired to add my own to this review. 🙂

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Content Advisory

Some mild language, no sexual content (other than a steamy kiss and a mentioned desire for “more), some violence.

What I Want to See More of in YA Fiction

A variety of trends have been making the rounds in young adult fiction, some that I enjoy, some I don’t, and some I feel neutral about or that I feel I have not seen done to its full potential yet. Here are some things (some are current trends, some are not) that I would like to see more often in young adult fiction…

Slowly-Building Romances

I think Cinder, The Hunger Games, and For Darkness Shows the Stars all feature good examples of this. It isn’t insta-love, or even, “Oh hi, one day you’re my friend and the next day I might love you because you kissed me and it felt good!” (I’m looking at you The Testing!), but it starts off small and builds over time, naturally.

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True Dystopia

The books 1984 and Fahrenheit 451. The movies Equilibrium and V for Vendetta. Episodes of The Twilight Zone such as “The Obsolete Man” and “Number 12 Looks Just Like You.” What do they all have in common? They’re true dystopias!

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I think a lot of “dystopias” in young adult fiction have an element of this, with a weird or oppressive government, but a lot of times the danger doesn’t feel all that real, especially if it only takes a couple  of kids to overthrow the government. Or if the whole plot of the book is conveniently about how oppressive the government is when it comes to marrying who you want, and then you proceed to fall in love with someone that you’re not supposed to. I feel you and all but please… there are bigger problems  in this world. I want to see more daring, more dangerous dystopias.

More Science Fiction Elements

More genetic engineering, more clones, more space! I’m a developing geek, so I want more science fictiony things that aren’t quite the full-blown deal. However, I’m picky about it being so light it seems pointless, like in Across the UniverseFor Darkness Shows the Stars, however, handled it fantastically.

Unique Story Ideas

uniqueWhat do these two have in common? Nothing really, except they both have my love for their unique stories, one as a book and the other as a movie. Since we’re talking YA fiction though, I’ll focus on The Book Thief. It’s a WWII story, not uncommon in of itself. But the narrator is Death, which sets the entire tone for how we see the story of a little girl named Liesel who steals books. Her story may not be entirely unique in all that she experiences during war, but the point of view we are given of her story is. And I love that I have never read a book like it before or since.

Retellings

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Does this sound like a contradiction to my previous point? Yes. Do I care? No. While I love a super unique story, I also love seeing new spins on old tales. My two favorite retellings that I have read this year are For Darkness Shows the Stars, based on Persuasion but is set in a future world where genetic engineering has gone wrong, and Cinder, a retelling of Cinderella where our MC is a cyborg and has bigger problems than missing her glass slipper! It’s fun to see an updated or futuristic twist on a familiar story, because it feels familiar and new all at once – the best of both worlds!  

Bromance

So many young adult books focus on a girl, and the guys in her life are typically feuding suitors. Why can’t the guys be friends? Why isn’t there more focus on them? Does everything have to be about romance? How about some bromance?!

The best bromance ever; from Star Trek Deep Space Nine.

Stand-Alone Books

Series have their place, and I certainly appreciate the arcs they can provide, but it’s nice to get the entire story in one book every so often. The Book Thief is the only YA fiction book I have read this year that was a stand-alone, but The Scorpio Races and a few others are on my TBR!

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What do you want to see more of in young adult fiction? 

Review: Monsters University

I’ve been a little upset with Pixar lately, between their run of sequels and the strange movie Brave, and have been impressed while their competition Dreamworks really stepped up their game with How To Train Your Dragon. Well, I finally saw Monsters  University over the weekend, and while a prequel, it finally felt like a step in the right direction – back to Pixar’s glory days.

I plan to keep this review short. The movie is a prequel to my personal favorite Pixar movie, Monsters, Inc., which I loved so much because of its unique story and fun characters. So for me, the idea of giving this movie its own prequel could either be a total disaster or a fun ride, and thankfully it was the latter! As usual, Pixar payed close attention to every detail, and you can see it in every scene of the movie. The various monster characters are all one of a kind, each complete with their own personality. And not only did we get to see how much Mike and Sully did not get along when they first met, but we also learn that Randall was actually a nice guy at one time! Before Nathan Fillion Johnny Worthington’s fraternity Roar Omega Roar got the better of him.

I also loved the messages in the movie. Mike works extremely hard to be the best scarer ever, as it’s all he’s wanted since he was a little monster. But he learns that he’s actually not all that scary. However, that doesn’t mean he’s worthless. He’s great at training others how to scare, and is hard worker, and these things will help him in his future career. But of course, while in the middle of everything he is going through, it’s hard for him to see.

Working hard pays off, and so does pursuing your dream, but sadly, we all cannot do exactly as we dream to do, but we can do something else, something we may realize is even better for us.

I give Monsters University four stars for delivering a fun time, a good message, great characters new and old, and for not ruining Monsters, Inc. It’s not quite among my elite favorites, but I’ll definitely be adding the movie to my Pixar film collection.

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Have you seen Monsters University? What were your thoughts? And what’s your favorite Pixar film?

Review: For Darkness Shows the Stars

I knew I had to read this book when I heard that it was basically Jane Austen’s Persuasion meets genetic engineering, and I’m glad I did!

synopsisGenerations after tampering with genetic experimentation has gone wrong and caused the Reduction, Posts are being born, descendants of the Reduced who are no longer limited to the docile state of the Reduced. Meanwhile the Luddites rise to power, placing protocols in place to ensure that such a disaster never occurs again. Elliot, born and raised a Luddite, was once forced to choose between helping her family and their estate or running away with the Post boy she had grown to love over the years. When he returns four years later, the consequences of her choice continue to haunt her daily, and she comes to learn just how much the world is changing as Posts gain more wealth and power.

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There was so much I adored about this book! It was not perfect, but let me outline some of my favorite elements…

The unique adaptation of PersuasionI have not read Persuasion, though I have seen a film version of it and after reading this book, it has jumped much higher on my TBR list. Despite my limited exposure to it, it was obvious how much influence of the story was included. Not only is the basic premise there, but even the writing felt a bit Austen-esque (though more modern-day friendly). And the world-building supported it. The world-building in this story, I felt, was pretty strong. Somehow, Peterfreund was able to craft a world that was believably a part of the future, but also somewhat rooted in the past. The nobility structure of the Luddites mirrors the time in which Austen lived in, where estate owners live in wealth and where it is not uncommon for families to inter-marry (I guess Luddites really don’t worry much about genetics! o.O). I just loved how she merged the past and the future to create the technology-scared world as the perfect setting for an Austen-esque story. I loved the details that married past and future with the sun-carts that were used and the fashion the Posts wore.

I loved the MC, Elliot. She was independent but still loved and leaned on others. She was smart and stood her ground. She was fiercely loyal and self-motivated. I related to her a lot, at least personality-wise. But instead of irritating me (except when she wouldn’t give Kai a chance to talk to her, but more on that later), she inspired me. But she was not perfect. She constantly struggled over the beliefs of what she was raised to believe versus the changes she was seeing in her world. Sometimes others had to guide her and remind her that they were there for her and that she didn’t have to fight her demons alone.

The supporting characters were all unique in their own way. I did not feel any of the characters were one-dimensional. Though Elliot does paint her sister and her father out to be that way, we learn that there is more to both of them than meets the eye. Even Elliot’s Reduced friend, Ro, has a personality that can be clearly seen through her actions. I don’t have minor character that stands out as one that I really love, but I did appreciate them all in their own way.

The letters throughout the book. Elliot and Kai grew up together, and one of their favorite pastimes was writing letters to each other. At first the letters feel like basic background information, but then we see an increase in their relevance, as we see the philosophies of both Kai and Elliot forming at a young age. I like how through these letters, we can understand how the characters have developed to who they are when we meet them in the book.

The feels! Elliot goes through a wide range of emotions in this book, all for understandable reasons! When she practically hated Kai, I did too. When she grew hopeful maybe things would change back to the way they used to be with Kai, I felt my heart hope that for her too.

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But this book was not perfect. Here’s what I didn’t love so much…

Kai was just a little too mean for a little too long. Again, I have not read Persuasion, but in the movie I don’t remember Captain Wentworth being just so flat-out mean. Kai deliberately stirs up Elliot’s anger for a good portion of the book, to the point where I wondered if I even really wanted Elliot to get back with him! Thankfully, he realizes how awful he’s been and tries to make it right, but Elliot will never talk to him for more than five minutes. Anytime the guy was trying to apologize or tell her he cared or anything, she would never listen very long. Even towards the end when she’s not as mad at him, it’s like she won’t trust herself to talk to him for more than a few minutes. The guy has to write out a letter to explain what he wants to (of course, that’s perfect given the nature of their relationship… but still)!

The sometimes slow pacing and long passages of time passed by. The first few chapters of the book felt clunky to me, not long, but like a strange, slow way to start a book. There’s an early chapter where we meet Ro, but other than the purpose of meeting her specifically as well as someone who is Reduced, it feels really pointless. We do learn things about Ro that carry throughout the book, but I really would have like to have seen something more from the chapter. I feel like Elliot explains a lot early on as well, instead of letting us discover things as the reader through dialogue and such, but thankfully this wanes over the book.

There were also times when periods of time would pass and we would only get a few sentences on what happened. I don’t mind this when used scarcely and when used correctly, but it happened a few times and there were times it felt awkward. Like Kai and Elliot would seem to be close to having a moment when their conversation is interrupted, and then we skip to months in the future with the indication that they have not interacted anymore in that time. I suppose in the nature of the story it is plausible, but it was utilized more times than I personally prefer.

The ending was rushed and not quite as emotionally satisfying as I was expecting. So Elliot finally figures out what Kai has been trying to tell her, that he cares for her still, and yet she continues to completely ignore him and intends to do so until he leaves. Then suddenly he leaves the letter explaining how she feels and she is running out the door without a care in the world, singing that she is going to actually run away with her love this time. I had no problem with this idea really, but it felt so crazy fast, and when it all came down to them finally being open to one another, I didn’t feel the tug at my heartstrings I was anticipating. (I did re-read the ending a second time and it did feel a little more emotionally satisfied, but it wasn’t to the degree I was hoping.)

I was left wanting more. Elliot spends the entire time struggling between what she was raised to believe, what choices Kai has made, and what the world seems to be becoming. I  know there is another book coming out soon that is set in this same universe, and I’m glad Peterfreund did not leave us with an absolute answer of what is definitely right and what is definitely wrong in terms of what we do with genetic engineering, but I would have liked for Elliot to at least have either some sort of resolution or reconciliation… not necessarily to all her questions, because that might take a lifetime, but as how she will go forward with Kai and the Posts while still staying true to herself, as it was clear she had not completely converted to their beliefs, and I honestly don’t think she needed to, especially not just for the sake of love. I just wanted to know what she was thinking at the end when it came to all that, but the romantic story dominated at the end and wrapped the story up.

However, even with these problems, I just adored reading the book so much. I felt giving it 5 stars was too much, but 4 seemed too little, so I’m doing another half rating of 4.5 stars.

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I will definitely be checking out Across a Star-Swept Sea, which is not about Elliot and Kai but takes place in the same world. It’s a very fascinating world and I can’t wait to learn even more about it!

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Content Advisory: One mild word, no sex, no violence. Very clean!

Have you read For Darkness Shows the Stars? What are your thoughts on it? 

Your Star Trek Introduction

Are you guys ready to become Trekkies?! I know you are! 😉

So I worked very hard on this flowchart in Excel to help guide you in starting you venture with Star Trek. Turns out converting it to any sort of viable picture if a complete pain in the butt. The following was the best I could do, and if you click on the picture, you can see it in a much more decent (i.e. readable) size:

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However, the top part of the chart was cut off. If you click on the link to the Excel file on Google drive (you’ll have to do maximum zoom to be able to read it) you can see the top, but I think the size is about the same as clicking on the image above. So my apologies I could not do better! I promise it looked nice in Excel!

The first question on top is supposed to be “How do you feel about science fiction?” and your two options are: “I enjoy Star Wars and other science fiction” and “I am uncertain about science fiction.” Now, I am going ahead and say that even though I think more of you would like Star Trek than you realize, I also fully recognize it is NOT for everyone. If you watch a few of these episodes and still find yourself saying “meh,” you probably won’t like the show overall. Some (but not all) of the episodes included on the chart are universally claimed by fans to be some of the best, so if you don’t like something we consider to be the best in the series, you’re probably not going to like the rest of it either. Star Trek does include a lot of “technobabble” (difficult and probably made up talk about science fiction-y things), space battles, and aliens, but it also includes a close look at humanity, philosophy, and characters. However, if you trust my judgment on anything and the idea of a space-based show doesn’t totally weird you out, I think you should at least try out a few episodes (all episodes available for streaming on Netflix or at startrek.com) and see what you think.

I was originally going to divide my chart based on people’s perceived ideas on Star Trek, but really I kept hearing the same thing: “Star Trek looks dated, hokey, and/or cheesy.” 

I can understand these concerns, as they were probably mine as well when I first started watching. The original series was filmed in the 60s, and it has it share of cheese at times, but some of the episodes are also really good and full of meaning. Yes, it was obviously filmed in the 60s, but if you can get past that and enjoy the story, I think you’ll be glad you did. The series was actually culturally groundbreaking in many ways.

The Next Generation might be the most beloved of the series, and it (especially the early seasons) is so clearly from the 80s. Again, once you get past the look, you can really enjoy what the episodes have to offer.

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If you’re familiar with Wil Wheaton/Wesley Crusher, here he is looking 80s-tastic in one episode. He was more commonly seen in uniform or in ugly 80s sweaters.

I think once you get to Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and definitely Enterprise, you see a lot less of the hokey-looking stuff. And of course, I think the new J.J. movies look slick and can be a nice introduction to Trek if you’re thinking about whether or not you want to delve into the deeper waters of the TV shows.

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Don’t let Chris Pine down now!

If I was told you could only watch two episodes of Star Trek to give you the scope of what it stands for, I would go with the fun and quirky Star Trek original series episode “The Trouble With Tribbles” and the Deep Space Nine episode “In the Pale Moonlight.” The latter is my absolute favorite of all Trek and I almost would hate to give it away out of the gate, but at the same time I would hate for anyone to judge the series without having seen it. The funny thing about me liking this episode so much is that the creator of Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry, was probably rolling in his grave when it aired.

You see, Gene Roddenberry had a vision of the future that was a utopia, at least for Earth and its allies within the Federation. They were clearly the good guys, they did all the right things, period. But we know things aren’t that clear cut in real life. The reason why I love Deep Space Nine so much is because it shows the dirty underbelly of what happens when good people find themselves in desperate circumstances. The series contains amazing character story arcs, and this sixth season episode is a big turning point for Captain Benjamin Sisko.

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“The Trouble With Tribbles” is the exact opposite of “In The Pale Moonlight.” It’s light and fun but also a favorite among Star Trek fans. Deep Space Nine paid a wonderful homage to the episode with their episode “Trials and Tribble-ations,” but you should see the original first. What can you not love about an endless number of furry, cooing space animals?

274227064779931434_w6ZLLtWx_cSo if you’re interested in trying Trek out, open the chart and follow the statements that most apply to you. Watch the episodes. When you’re finished with them, if you enjoyed them, try out another statement and those episodes, and try that for as long as you want. Then if you’re ready for more, you can try the new movies, or start from the beginning of the series that seems the most interesting to you, and go from there.

If you want, you can go with the order the shows were created, which would obviously mean begin with The Original Series (TOS). As mentioned before, you have to remember that this show was created in the 1960s and can be hokey at times, but there are plenty of episodes that show depth. It’s also only three seasons, a light commitment compared to all of the other series (not including The Animated Series… but we’re not talking about it today). It also has a few movies.

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You could also start with the chronological beginning, which would be Enterprise (ENT). The first season is not the best and the finale of the show is the worst episode of Star Trek ever, but it does pick up after a time and has a really interesting and intense story arc that pretty much takes up the third season of the show. It has four seasons overall.

If you are looking for quintessential Star Trek, that can be light-hearted or deep, but was better produced than the original series, check out Voyager (VOY). Its pilot might be the best in all of Star Trek. It has seven seasons and is the favorite of Kelley’s from Another Novel Read.

If you like philosophy and psychology, you might enjoy starting with The Next Generation (TNG), but you will have to patient and forgive the first season or two. After that though, it’s quite enjoyable! It has seven seasons and a few movies.

20477373275756178_V0qqgam5_cAnd then if you love continuing story and character arcs and stories that really make you think, Deep Space Nine (DS9) might be a good place for you to start. It is the best developed series of Trek, in my opinion, and really starts kicking late in the second season. Its finale is probably my favorite of all the series. It’s also known for being the “darkest” of the Treks, but I think it also has some of the most fun episodes as well. It also has seven seasons.

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And Tweet me anytime (@acps927) if you have a question about Trek! I will recommend episodes, movies, podcasts, or answer general questions you may have (unless they deal with spoilers… then I’ll make you find out on your own!).

Being a Star Trek fan is a lot of fun. It’s a culture of its own. We love the best episodes and love to hate the worst. It will undoubtedly take some time to understand the difference between a Vulcan and a Romulan or to get used to certain things, but in the end, I think it’s worth it and quite a fun ride.

Are you going to give Trek a try? Let me know if I’ve piqued your interest or if you have more questions!